Today we will look at the second phase of the New Perspective on Paul. The first phase is the work of E.P. Sanders in 1977. The second phase was the work of Jimmy Dunn, and that began in 1982 and came to full fruition with his pumpkin book, The Theology of the Apostle Paul, in
Dunn basically agrees with Sanders on Judaism: election-based, covenant-shaped relationship for Israel with God to whom God gives the Torah to know how to live as God’s people.
Over time Jimmy shifted his language to the “sociological markers” of a community so that “works of the Torah” were not “merit-seeking works” but “boundary-marking works.” That is, the Judaizers were trying to make the Gentile Christians become Jews. The “works of the Law,” then, were not merit-shaped works but specific things like sabbath, food laws and circumcision. Think concretely, Jimmy was asking us to do, when we get to this expression “works of the Law.” Avoid thinking of the expression the way Augustine and Luther and Calvin do.
Fundamentally, Paul’s mission was to form a new people of God, the Church, on the basis of faith and because it was by faith and not works (boundary markers) it was a people of God that could include Jews and Gentiles. Justification was God’s work of declaring and making righteous those who had faith in Jesus Christ; one might say then that justification was declaring who was the people of God.
Much more could be said, but our focus this week is on the core issues that are causing a stir for so many.